By Katlin Cilliers | Staff Writer

Shyanne Humel was one of the four speakers who shared success stories with the nearly 60 people gathered at the ʻŌhiʻa cafeteria last Thursday, Oct. 11. During the event, Kapiʻolani Community College students, faculty and staff celebrated another year of the King William Charles Lunalilo Scholars program, started and maintained by the Kaneta Foundation since 2012.

Humel was part of the program’s first cohort in 2012. The support she received during her years as a scholar from 2012 to 2017 inspired her to pursue a career in education. During her speech, she shared some of the benefits of being a participant in the program that transcend financial aid.

“[The cohort] was extraordinary and loving,” she said. “It was that love that made me want to stay in education, and get a better education.”

The 24-year old is currently a 9th grade English teacher at Waiʻanae High School, after having been a recipient of the scholarship to attend Kapiʻolani Community College and, later on, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, where she graduated in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

Humel went on to highlight the ripple effect of programs such as the Lunalilo scholarship in the community. In the same way she was told she had value by the program staff, peer mentors and the foundation when she struggled to believe it herself, she now strives to show her students that there are people who care where they will end up.

” … You, your presence, donations, scholarships, toward people that need support, it impacts everyone else,” Humel said. “And one day, it might be my student that your help is saving.”

This year’s event included reviewing the program highlights, its current challenges, sharing success stories of previous alumni and peer mentors as well as honoring donors and stakeholders. There were also opportunities for guests to network, mingle and talk story. People gathered for dinner before Louise Pagotto, KCC’s chancellor, opened the event.

Pagotto started by referring to the upcoming accreditation procedures that UH community colleges are undergoing next week. To her, the valuable educational experiences of students serve as the backbone of the work the school does. Through students’ positive experiences in the UH system, they are able to go on and “transform their community.”

She was then followed by LaVaché Scanlan, the highly regarded program director who is seen by many scholars and peer mentors as the “program mom” due to her persistence and constant checking in on students to ensure they are following program requirements in order to make the most of their education.

Scanlan provided attendees with program updates, an overview of the current numbers of first-year students who go on to pursue their studies compared with non-scholarship recipients in the UH system. She drew attention to figures surrounding Native Hawaiian students: program recipients enroll and earn more credits than general populations. They also have higher GPA than non-recipients who are also Native Hawaiian.

“Students are challenged, … but they find that perseverance to continue, and they’re doing things we never dreamed possible,” Scanlan said.

The Lunalilo Scholars Program is strongly grounded in Hawaiian values such as community and aloha. Scholarship recipients are helped with money for tuition, fees, books and supplies, transportation, emergency grants, as well as academic and personal support in the form of tutoring and assessments. According to Lester Kaneta, the program founder, 29% of scholarship recipients enter the UH System within three years.

In May 2017, the foundation, along with Kapi‘olani Community College staff, held its first celebratory dinner. By providing students who are unlikely to pursue higher education with scholarships, the program changes the reality – and the life stories – of students in need.